vol. 26 no. 1, March, 2021

Book Reviews

Buckland, Michael and Takayama, Masaya Ideology and libraries: California, diplomacy, and occupied Japan, 1945-1952. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021. xiv, 170p. ISBN. 978-1-5381-4314-8. $75.00 £58.00

As the title suggests, the heart of this book consists of the nine chapters that deal with the development and implementation of a library plan for Japan, following its defeat in the Second World War. However, these chapters are preceded by four chapters, which, in effect, set the scene and explain how the US became so involved in the plan for Japan. I omit chapter 1 from this account as it is simply an introduction of one and half pages, which, in other books might well have been presented as a foreword or preface. The book is written, I think, with the aim of reaching a wider audience than simply the library community, and there is every reason to believe that it will be of interest to historians, for example. This is evident in Chapter 2, Function and form, which sets out a typology of library services: fact checking, historical research, recreational reading, and current awareness. We might now add electronic service delivery as requiring new modes of service and new skills, but such a service may, in fact, assist in the delivery of the four types set out here.

Chapter 3, Cultural contexts and political choices, compares the development of public library systems in the USA and in France, the author noting that:

In the United States, a variety of political, legal, religious, and other cultural factors converged to support the development of free public libraries. Hassenforder's detailed analysis reveals how in France, political, legal, religious, and other cultural factors reinforced each other in impeding the development of public library services. (p. 19)

Later in the book, the author shows how cultural and political factors affected the efforts made by the USA to encourage the development of a public library system in Japan, and Chapter 4, The California County Library System describes the model that was to be followed, with some degree of success, in Japan.

In Chapter 5, Libraries in cultural diplomacy, describes what would now be called the use of soft power, that is, 'when one country gets other countries to want what it wants' (Nye, 1990) through the application of persuasion and example, rather than force. Before its efforts in post-war Japan, the USA had employed cultural diplomacy or soft power in the establishment of the Committee on Public Information during World War I, which distributed thousands of leaflets, provided books to many foreign countries, and established a library in Mexico City and reading room in another six Mexican cities. In World War II, the Office of War Information filled a similar role, with Archibald MacLeish (the then Librarian of Congress) as assistant director. In 1934, the British Council was established, with a soft power role, and its services continue to be provided in more than 100 countries around the world. Libraries played a major role in the work of the Council, but, as a result of Margaret Thatcher's somewhat barbarian attitude towards culture, it now seems to focus much more on providing English language tuition.

The 'meat' of the book occupies Chapters 6 to 16, covering the starting state of libraries in Japan in 1945, the opening of the CIE (Civil Information and Education) Libraries, the education mission, and the development of a library plan for Japan, the role played by the National Diet Library, the Library Law of 1950, the planning and development of professional education for librarians, and the opening the the Japan Library School in Keio University. All of these developments were guided and motivated by the aim of the Allies, although mostly represented by the USA, to introduce democratic institutions in Japan, and to overcome the years of military-dominated rule that had existed before World War II. For example, the role of the CIE libraries was motivated by the charge of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, to:

Expedite the establishment of freedom of religious worship, freedom of opinion, speech, press and assembly by dissemination of democratic ideals and principles through all media of public information... (p. 52)

The story of these developments is told, in part, through the contributions made by particular individuals. The names of Verner Clapp and Leon Carnovsky may well be recognized by students of library history, but others would probably fade from the record had not Michael Buckland recorded their efforts here. He names, for example, Philip Keeney as being largely responsible for the library plan, based on his experience of the California library system. Keeney, unfortunately, fell a victim to the 'Red Scare', with which the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy (ably assisted for a time by Richard Nixon) will be forever associated, and he was accused of being a Russian spy, becoming, as a result, unemployable. Others were more fortunate and returned to careers in the USA

The story of what happened following the end of the interventions is told in Chapter 15, Afterwards, and in the final chapter, Summary and retrospect, the author reviews the developments in Japan, and returns to the role of libraries in a liberal democracy. He goes on to explore the different motivations of much of what now passes for the electronic delivery of information and entertainment, noting that, 'using new technology to do different things better has barely started'. Perhaps the pandemic we now labour under will bring about a new ideology that once again sees libraries as central to democracy, rather than information of all kinds being simply another market product, but the monopoly power of the providers and their enormous bank balances may well make that a difficult task.

A good book is one that makes the reader think. This is a good book.


Hassenforder, J. (1967). Développement comparé des bibliothèques publiques en France, en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle (1850-1914). Paris: Cercle de la librairie.

Nye, J.S. (1990). Bound to lead: the changing nature of American power. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Professor T.D. Wilson
Editor in Chief, February 2021

How to cite this review

Wilson, T.D.. (2021). Review of: Buckland, Michael and Takayama, Masaya. Ideology and libraries: California, diplomacy, and occupied Japan, 1945-1952. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021. Information Research, 26(1), review no. R706. http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs706.html

Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.